BEWILDERED BY BEST BUY

 

Waiting for the Best Buy’s Geek Squad to arrive affords ample time for writing.  When he says “between eight and noon” one can settle in until at least 11:45 before the first phone call advises that he is “running a little late” and will arrive before two.  The second call, at 1:50, advises that he is lost because his GPS does not work.  By 2:45, when he arrives, one could have made a good start on a historical novel.

Our recent experience was instructive.  One day, the picture on our three-year-old television suddenly appeared psychedelic.  After the novelty of green tongues, purple skin and red trees subsided, we considered our options.   Uncharacteristically, we had not only chosen to purchase a warranty with this television but also knew where to find it, taped to its back-side.  The warranty extended to a date several months in the future.  So far, so good; in fact, merging on miraculous.

Upon arrival, our Geek proved to be enigmatic.   He turned on the television, made several diagnostic noises, like “hmmmm” and “ahem,” and advised:  “I see what the problem is.”

“Yes?” I said, anticipating a wise solution.

“The colors are messed up,” he concluded.

“Yes, that is why we called,” I said, after determining that he was not being ironic.

Wordlessly, he walked past us and back out the front door.  My wife and I looked at each other.

“Did I say something wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” she said.

We craned our necks to look out the front window where we saw that he was standing beside his van making a phone call.  After ten minutes, he was still outside and I tired of waiting in the living room.  I walked out behind him, just as he was asking:  “Then what happens?”

“Is everything okay?” I whispered, to get his attention.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, as though he had forgotten me completely.  “I’m just making a phone call.”

Again, the lack of irony surprised me.  I went back inside and resumed waiting.  Finally, he came back in, and said:  “I’m ordering the part.  It’s a common problem.  I can install it on…” he consulted a note pad, “… January 18.”

“That is two weeks from now,” I replied, showing that I, too, could state the obvious.

“Yes,” he said.  “We are busy installing everyone’s Christmas purchases this time of year.  It’s tough to schedule repairs.”

“Two weeks is kind of long, isn’t it?” I said, hoping for a reprieve.

“Fourteen days,” he said, without affect, showing that he, too, could calculate.

We have a second television, so this was not a major deprivation for us.  Still, I wondered aloud why a whole van would not contain a part that was a “common problem.”

“Don’t be so logical,” wheedled my wife.  “It’s always like this in the real world.”

She likes to point out how the “real world” operates, from time to time, so that I acutely appreciate how often she handles repairs, warranties, service calls, etc. by herself.

The two weeks proceeded uneventfully.  On January 17, I received a phone message from the Geek Squad:  “Please call us with regard to your repair appointment.”  I called the number provided and heard the following announcement:  “You have reached a non-operating number at Best Buy.”  I checked the number on the message and tried again, with the same result.  I concluded they were calling to confirm the appointment for the next day.

As the following morning turned to afternoon, the phone rang.  I raced to answer it since the caller i.d. indicated “Best Buy.”

“Mr. Sanders?” said a woman.  “I left a message yesterday, but didn’t hear back from you.”

“That’s because the number you left is ‘non-operating,’” I said.

“Oh, really?” she said, sounding skeptical.

“That’s okay,” I said.  “What time shall I expect the, ah, repairman?”   I hesitated to say “geek.”

“Maybe next week, ‘cause the part wasn’t shipped.”

“Why is that?”

“It just wasn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” she stated conclusively.

I felt that I was like an eight-year-old asking why I could not have candy for breakfast.

Several days later, a phone message from Best Buy advised of a new and exciting twist.  The part that was “ordered” turned out to “no longer be manufactured.”  As a result, said the voice, we should go to our local Best Buy with our warranty in hand and obtain a replacement television!  This development sounded too good to be true, but we dutifully drove to the store and a twenty-something-year-old salesperson cheerily confirmed, after a feverish session at his keyboard, that we were entitled to a new, “equivalent” television.

“You can buy anything up to $799 which is what you paid the last time,” he said.

First, however, he wanted to show us potential upgrades.

“You won’t believe what you can have now,” he declared, sounding like Robert Preston in The Music Man.   “By golly, in the three years since your last purchase, televisions have undergone a technological revolution!  For instance, DVD players have given way to streaming; HD has been eclipsed (or did he say ‘augmented?’) by 3-D; and, your computers and games can run through the television.”

I nearly said: “I’ve never played a computer game,” but I did not wish to appear totally hopeless.  “Can we balance our check-book on the television?” I asked, combining actual curiosity with facetiousness.

“Check-book?” he asked, looking confused.  That effectively answered my question.

Much to the salesperson’s embarrassment, however, each attempt to demonstrate a feature ended in failure.  On the first two sets, the controller would not access 3-D; at the third, he could not change stations; at the fourth, he had no volume control.  If this man, who is surrounded by the technology all day, every day, and whose enthusiasm knew no bounds, could not access basic applications (I’ve always wanted to use that word in the flow of a sentence) how could we access the evening news?

Inevitably, we chose the same LG 42-inch television that we had, now priced at $1,199 thanks to all its “features,” but fortuitously on sale for $799.  “Even exchange,” our helper touted, as he pointed us to “check-out.”  According to the cashier, a dead ringer for Steve Erkel, however, the “system” showed that our old television was only worth $649.

“How can that be?” I asked.   “My receipt shows that we paid $799?”

“The equivalent television is only valued at $649 now.”

“But this is the same television,” I said.  “It is simply updated.  You do not even have a stripped-down $649 version now.”

“That’s true,” he conceded.  “But you owe $150.”

“The salesperson said we were making an even exchange.”

“He doesn’t know how this works.  He is just there to sell products.  Here is where the business is done,” said the cashier, with impressive self-assurance, especially considering his modest position.

I shrugged to express regret to the people now accumulating behind me in line.  With the impatient eye-roll of a parent dealing with a six-year-old having a tantrum, the cashier offered to call the manager.

“Please do,” I said.

He slipped away from the counter to speak furtively in the telephone.   He nodded, frowned, shrugged, glanced at me, nodded and whispered some more.  I could not tell how the conversation was going but he returned to say:  “Sorry, but you have to pay the $150.”

I was feeling helpless with anger and exasperation, but my wife, so experienced in this realm, calmly said:  “Let us talk to the manager.”

The cashier looked jumpy as a tall, skinny man emerged from an office with a name-tag indicating that he was the manager.  My wife launched pre-emptively into a presentation about the “warranty” and the “equal exchange” and “what the salesperson said” when the manager, baffled, held up his hand and said to the cashier:  “I told you to put it through at no cost.”

Erkel looked abashed and said, unconvincingly:  “Oh, ah, I didn’t understand.”

Finally, we had a happy ending.   But I was still baffled by the entire experience.   Why was speaking to Best Buy’s “geek” so unsatisfactory?  Why was their telephone number inoperative?   Why did their demonstration models fail to work?  And, what’s with the cashier?  Did he have a need to put down his co-worker?  Did he want to impress his boss by getting a better deal for Best Buy?  Did he have some scam going, or was he just incompetent?

Thanks to the warranty, we now have a brand new television with numerous capabilities that we may someday use and appreciate.  Even the remote controller is space age compared to the ancient version of three years ago.  Imagine, our previous controller did not double as a Wii wand, whatever that is.  As we were leaving, I thanked the manager for helping.

“My pleasure,” he said.  “If you have any trouble setting it up, just call the Geek Squad.  It can’t be any simpler!”

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